Have you ever found yourself in this situation: You’re out with a group of friends. Everyone is enjoying themselves – talking, laughing. Then one person, full of laughter and amusement, makes a joke about sexual assault. You find yourself uncomfortable, even while some in your group are laughing hysterically. Chances are, if you show your discomfort, you’ll get the response, “Relax, it’s just a joke.” But is it?

According to writer Lani Seelinger:

These jokes have nothing to do with your sense of humor, and everything to do with normalizing the idea of sexual assault. When people make jokes about rape, about men overpowering women, even about women deserving it, and no one calls them out on it, it’s a signal that the joke’s acceptable.

Sure, a rape joke is a far cry from an actual incident of sexual violence, but think of the rape jokes as the foundation of the pyramid of rape culture. If you take away the foundation — if you create a situation where rape jokes are unacceptable, instead of a situation where victims feel forced to bite their tongues and bear it — then everything else will be a little bit less likely to take root and flourish.

The article goes on to list several ways you can respond to someone who has made a joke about sexual assault or rape. We recommend reading the whole article, but here’s a quick rundown of Seelinger’s possible responses to these jokes.

  1. Appeal to the joker’s empathy
  2. Break the joke down
  3. Turn it back to the man’s perspective
  4. Remind them what rape does to people
  5. Use the facts surrounding sexual assault
  6. Express your discomfort
  7. Turn it into a discussion topic
  8. When all else fails, just walk away